Thick as Fiddlers (in Hell)

Sometimes you don't find out what you've actually written until it turns up unexpectedly in your Google referrer logs.

Describing in a Utah-themed entry (their motto: "Chase and be chaste!"), I said the target audience--single Mormons--were "thick as fiddlers" there. I'd picked up "thick as fiddlers" from my grandmother, whose birthday we were celebrating. As it turns out, the complete simile is "thick as fiddlers in Hell;" it's use in the revival-happy, 19th century, rural South betrays a faith-based condemnation of musical instruments in general and the fiddle in particular, which was known as "the Devil's instrument."

No matter what you may have seen in Footloose, Mormons don't share this hillbilly view. Revealing the 19th century roots of "chase and be chaste," this quote from the prophet Brigham Young helps explain why Mormonism is called the "dancingest denomination" :

Our work, our everyday labor, our whole lives are within the scope of our religion. This is what we believe, and what we try to practice. Recreation and diversion are as necessary to our well-being as the most serious pursuits of life. If you wish to dance, dance, and you are just as prepared for prayer meeting as you were before, if you are [Hot] Saints.

As this Salt Lake Tribune article shows, though, the price of dancing is eternal vigilance.

Since 2001 here at, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting that time.

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